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24 September 2014

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Africa Lives

Sohm is well away from the West Coast tourist area of Gambia

Report Three

With the building work over, time to do other things, like visiting a school, and giving it in one afternoon what would take the locals 20 years to achieve.

What else did you do while in Gambia?
The local people were so very friendly and welcoming, there were always lots of children and some adults around the accommodation. We received many invitations to visit family compounds both as a whole team and as smaller groups and we were often offered food which we knew they could ill afford.
Although some of these homes had furniture there were others with just the odd chair and a few boxes.

Visiting the local school
Visiting the local school

We visited the village school and found it almost completely lacking in equipment. The “resources centre” contained some broken desks and the library had no books because the termites had damaged their small stock beyond use.

Before the project, thanks to the generosity of the Jersey public, we had raised just over £11,000 and we spent about £500 while we were there on books and sports equipment for the school. Before leaving we took this down to the school and presented it too them.

After a spirited rendering of the Gambian National Anthem by the children the Headmaster thanked us for our kindness and generosity and told us that it would have taken them 20 years to save up for what we had given them that afternoon.

Did you go anywhere else?
Yes, we also visited the Nursery and the Clinic, both operated by an American Charity (C.C.F.or Childrens Christian Fellowship). The Nursery was having new premises built and they would then be given new equipment and while we were there some of the helpers went on a course to show them how to make educational toys out of scrap materials.

Local children
Some of the faces the Jersey volunteers will miss....

The clinic only operated once a week as the nurse had a number of clinics to run as well as some outreach work. Our team nurse soon became much in demand for all the villagers’ small injuries and a few long standing illnesses. She dealt patiently with those she could help and advised others to seek more qualified help where she felt it appropriate.

Also, during our stay, we were invited to two musical concerts one at the Sohm village school and one at a school further out – their music and enthusiastic attitude to dancing was quite an experience and our donation to the school funds much appreciated.

And finally.....
On each of our three Sundays in Sohm we hired a minibus and went sight seeing, taking in the markets in the local Towns, the river and the nearby coast, ending each day at a Hotel with a restaurant, pool and bar (not necessarily in that order!).

For the last three days of our stay in Gambia we took our leave of Sohm and moved to a Hotel on the coast. Some of the team popped back to Sohm to say a final farewell to friends they had made.

We all visited local craft markets, walked on the beach, lazed around the pool and took advantage of the superb seafood restaurants that abound in the coastal regions. Where else can you get 10 large Gambas for £4 and if you haven’t tried grilled Barracuda you have missed out on the best fish going!

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Gambia and all the friends we had made there and climb aboard the plane to Gatwick. A slight compensation was the full English breakfast served at the Hotel the next morning, the first time in a month that the menu wasn’t cornflakes and bananas!

Everybody was looking forward to seeing friends and relatives again but already missing new friends made on the trip. The temperature back at home was a shock to the system to say the least.

We all will have their own memories and views of the trip but everybody is proud of what we achieved and enjoyed an experience that will stay with them forever. I think that same comment is equally true for the Gambians of Sohm Village.

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last updated: 15/06/05
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